HOW COME BARBADOS? Ever since Japan and Barbados were placed at the top of global rankings of nations with most centenarians per capita, people have been asking that question.
After all, while it is understandable that Okinawa in Japan with its sophisticated medical care, vast resources, and enviable lifestyle can be number one the answers to why an upper middle income Caribbean country with a population of 270 000 people would have about 108 centenarians, giving it a per capita rate of one for every 2 500 people seem elusive.
What makes the issue so compelling is that the two wealthy North American nations, the United States and Canada, have a per capita rate of one centenarian per 10 000 people.
Now a leading Canadian newspaper, the National Post, has come up with some possible answers.
"A good start might be Bajan water," suggested the Post in an article headlined: Many Rivers To Cross, Why So Many Barbadians Live For More Than 100 years?
The paper stated, "the only volcanic island in the Caribbean, Barbados' coral limestone filters water to a healthy state of 'hard' calcium rich drinking water similar to that of Okinawa."
Next, it may be the fish Barbadians like to eat, "a plentiful harvest of fresh fish".
Of course, the secret may also be in the "early morning visit(s) to almost any beach on the island" where you would see elderly people exercising in the ocean.
"Everyone agrees that staying active is a good route to longevity," argued the Post.
But that's not all.
"Bajans are famous for their laid-back attitude, another core ingredient to a long life," the paper went on.
As if to deepen the mystery about the Bajan centenarians, the Post believes "somewhere amidst the warm tropical breeze, the delicious rum punch and the relaxed attitude is the answer to why so many residents of Barbados live to be centenarians".
But what do some of the 100 year-olds think about their longevity?
When 108-year-old Meta Montelle Harper was asked that question, her response was pretty straightforward: "I gave myself to the Lord many years ago," she said.
"I fear no evil because I have done no evil. I have lived an honest life and have never done anything wrong. I can go to my grave knowing that I lived well, treated people well and never lied or cheated."
Anything else? "I had eight children. I have worked very hard and I mind my business."
Amy King-Cumberbatch, 101, who lives alone, still takes the bus, goes into Bridgetown and cashes her pension cheque, points to her good memory, recalling some of the things that happened in her life as a young girl.
"I remember the school dances and the boys fighting over the girls. I remember chasing a boy through the canfields with my gillette (her cane cutting knife) because he tried to come on to me."
Cardinal Torrence Trotman, 102, gives a glimpse into his life.
Question: Do you still exercise to stay healthy?
Answer: Yes, I do. Three times every week. I walk to the beach where two lovely young ladies help me into the ocean.
Question: How much a part has diet played in your good health and long life?
Answer: Oh, I don't know. My mother was a good cook, she fed me well and made me eat what was on my plate.
Question: To what do you attribute your long life?
Answer: Hard work. I worked 16 hours a day with only a two-hour break, every afternoon, when business was slow, to play tennis.
Question: You must have seen a lot of changes in Barbados over your lifetime?
Answer: Yes, but nothing like what's coming. When the world cricket tournament comes in 2007, it will change things forever. We don't have the roads, hotels or infrastructure to manage it, and once tourists see how nice our island is, they'll want to come back again and again.
Question: Is that a bad thing?
Answer: Doesn't matter if it's good or bad, there's nothing I can do about it.